Censorship in the digital age

Digital technologies like Internet, mobile phone and computers banged the world with a claim to work freely. Suddenly there was an air of borderless world. Its popularity and power stunned the world nations. Governments lost track of digital power. Their radar of censorship got blocked by Internet. Information was flowing freely from anywhere to everywhere.

At one point of time there was a global movement try to control the world affairs. What was started in Brazil under the banner of World Social Forum threatened to break the iron cages of Governments. Independent people’s power of the world was half visible. Awaken by such critical realities; some countries tightened their information control. The axe fell on the Internet. Simply certain websites which are anti-national and provoking people to react were blocked.

Technologies which were part of younger generation were slowly impacting the elder sections too. Lagging behind in techno knowledge, Governments constituted cyber cells both to spread its information and to track its rebels and anti-establishments messages in the cyberspace.

China qualifies to the number one spot in censoring and blocking websites. No other country has so powerfully dealt with the Internet power than China. Jonathan Zittrain and Ben Edelman in their study found that collected two hundred thousand website samples and found that about fifty thousand were unavailable at least one and nineteen thousand were unavailable twice. BBC, CNN, US Court System were blocked. Some websites were clever enough to copy past the information from the blocked sites were available. It is a matter of popularity of the free expression of China sites that matter most to the Government. Tibet and Taiwan searches in the Google yielded no information or pro China news. Such was the strength of Government control over internet in China.

The Amnesty International says that the Chinese users were cleverer than their government by using proxy servers. It is the same case in information controlling Iran. The network system got popular from the university campuses. Slowly the anti-establishment students started spreading their message through Internet. Having successfully crushed down the print medium which was spreading anti-government messages, the Internet power came as a great shock.

Despite several tortures and control mechanisms Internet seems to be penetrating right to the end of the Government and hitting hard with antagonistic messages. Naturally the state control seems to be partial rather than totally ruthless. Off late the Chinese authorities are sending proxy pictures with anti-China message and infecting it with virus deliberately. This comes on the top of the searches and threatens the surfers not to download it. This exercise is repeated to fill many search results with virus attached messages and images.

One never knows the time of total takeover of Internet by the Government. Its power can be enhanced and upgraded any time. If a techno person takes over the Government then he/she will apply own mind to control the information. Rarely one can see a liberal implementing his prophecies. With the increasing terror threats anyone in the government will be compelled to give it as an excuse while ordering information control.
It is crucial to separate information freedom and information menace. Naturally every government should allow the free flow of information. Keeping track of the terrorists and troublemakers is a must. Indeed internet should be used proactively by the Government to track terror operators and help public to live peacefully.

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Live in Relationships

livein1In the fast moving career world who got time for formal relationships? This question seems to be answered on the ground and evidences are ample to witness. If a man and woman are living together and enjoying sexual relationship without marriage then it can be termed as ‘live in relationship’. India is totally strange to this model of human relationship few decades back. The Western societies which are accustomed to live in relationships infected traditional nations with this social model. Although this is few in numbers live in relationships will grow in big strength in the future.

There are various reasons for the escalating live in relationships. One, both man and woman are working and earning. In the past women used to be at home managing family. Men worked and brought resources to sustain livelihood. Whatever tensions he had at work are soothed at home by wife and children. Family life gave calmness and guided him at times of crisis. Entry of women in professional and higher education fields compelled them to take employment. Most importantly the high cost consumer economy necessitates women to work. Although work emancipated from ignorance and boredom it has taken their peace of mind. With eight hours of tedious work at office, concentrating on family matters is extremely difficult. But most of the Indian women have managed to strike a balance between work and home.

Few can handle occupational hazards. Either they have to sacrifice work or family. Working in private firms can be challenging for family people. I know some my women staff gets censored every day for coming late. Either they cut sorry figure or inhale frustrations. One of the programme coordinators keep saying “my days are numbered”. For the past two years she continues to come late due to her engagement with her son’s education. Despite giving her Saturday off, she comes late at forty five minutes late everyday to office. With this disadvantage she keeps fighting with everyone. Rarely does she go home with a peace of mind. Naturally one can expect the consequences of her family life.

According to a national survey, 99 percent of the Indian women are married. The remaining one percent enters either live in relationship or remain spinsters. But the number of increasing live in relationships is increasing from the surface view. A study conducted by Public Action in Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai and Kolkata says that two percent of the sample of 3000 young age people below 35 identified themselves as live in partners. The respondents mainly pointed out that there is no time for them to think about formal marriage system. They are afraid of registering marriage and filling divorce cases. Basically they are aware of the fragility of their marriage. Why to invite legal trouble by going for the marriage?

The high visibility of live in relationships has attracted the attention of courts. The Maharastra Government has extended the meaning of wife to one who is also living with a man for a long period of time. Justice. Mallimath Committee has recommended in 2003 that a woman who lived with a man for a reasonable period of time enjoys the legal rights of a wife. Is India getting ready for a large-scale live in relationships?

Change Benefits

obama1An international organization working in the tsunami affected area gave a CD to give opinion about their research. It was about the miseries of affected children. In one of the moving episodes a dalit child of 11 years said ‘We elected our own community man to improve our lives. But he is improving his own wealth without concern for his community people. One or two poor among dalits who were elected to the public office on reserved ticket are enjoying their power rather doing positive things for the community”. This moved me to explore the correlation between power and change.

 

Who benefits from the change? This is a very trivial question to answer. It is also difficult to provide an absolute evidence for the change brought in by people who were given mandate. Is it just enough to elect a black as the President of USA to ensure total justice for all blacks? Whether the ascendancy of woman to the top executive position of a country necessarily empowers women in that country? These are few fundamental questions keep cropping up in the minds during the high voltage talk about empowerment of underprivileged communities by electing one among them to represent in the highest power drivers.

 

One there is change at the structural and functional levels. But the increasing power of information reached to all sections through 24×7 media makes change invisible. All the negative aspects are projected. Rarely positive aspects of society are highlighted. Result of this is the circulation of frustration.

 

Political and personal benefits occupy the centre stage of change advocacy. There is no genuineness in advocating change. The gap between the lip and heart is very vast. When it comes to lip talk there is a free flow of rhetoric. In heart beats there are more personal desires than community development thoughts.

 

In India we had a dalit as the deputy prime minister. Babu Jagjeevan Ram occupied prime positions from ministership to deputy prime ministership. Yet he was not able to bring out revolutionary changes in the perception of dalits and also the others perception of dalits. We had Indira Gandhi the omnipotent woman Prime Minister for nearly two decades. Yet women occupy the down bottom position in the social strata. We had K.R. Narayanan the first dalit President. Today we have dalit chief justice.   

 

It is incorrect to raise this correlation of community person at the helm of affairs and their community development. Firstly they are limited by various permutations and combinations of the socio-political setup. Secondly, whether a dalit or woman or black or any underprivileged category person gets carried by the aura of power. He or she loses sight of community feelings and dons the mantle of power person. In this situation the focus of community development is lost.

                   

For instance, for the past two decades railway ministers of the union come from Bihar. They favour their home state by increasing the number of trains and rail related factories. This burns the hearts of other state members of parliament. Kerala MPs always complain about the raw deal they get in the railway budget. They often accuse the monopoly of Bihar in railways concessions, opportunities and employment.

 

Both ways it is difficult for the community conscious power people to survive. If they work explicitly for community concerns they are branded as ‘community driven’ and if they don’t work their own people condemn them. A right balance that can bring true change in each one of the underprivileged person’s life can remove this dilemma.

 

Conceding defeat

mccainDefeat is difficult to digest. But expressing explicitly in anguished form is not considered as sporty and public figure’s style. Elections in America always demonstrated the distinguished way of conceding defeat. John Mccain has lived up to the standard of defeated candidate in the USA’s presidential election. His cool, clam and assuring speech after the final ballot was counted tells the depth of American political culture. This one aspect of Western political culture mesmerizes both common man and politicians in the Indian subcontinent. I heard many people praising Mccain’s gesture of wishing Obama a bright political future and his support to strengthen America. Rarely political figures in India show such a courtesy to congratulate their opponents. Mudslinging is part of the political game played everyday in the Indian society.

 

A popular personality’s strength is tested during the time of defeat. In that sense Mccain’s stature has climbed few upper peaks after his defeat speech.

To congratulate him on being elected the next president of the country that we both love.

“In a contest as long and difficult as this campaign has been, his success alone commands my respect for his ability and perseverance. But that he managed to do so by inspiring the hopes of so many millions of Americans who had once wrongly believed that they had little at stake or little influence in the election of an American president is something I deeply admire and commend him for achieving.

This is an historic election, and I recognize the special significance it has for African-Americans and for the special pride that must be theirs tonight.

I’ve always believed that America offers opportunities to all who have the industry and will to seize it. Senator Obama believes that, too.

But we both recognize that, though we have come a long way from the old injustices that once stained our nation’s reputation and denied some Americans the full blessings of American citizenship, the memory of them still had the power to wound.

A century ago, President Theodore Roosevelt’s invitation of Booker T. Washington to dine at the White House was taken as an outrage in many quarters.

America today is a world away from the cruel and frightful bigotry of that time. There is no better evidence of this than the election of an African-American to the presidency of the United States.

Let there be no reason now … Let there be no reason now for any American to fail to cherish their citizenship in this, the greatest nation on Earth.

Senator Obama has achieved a great thing for himself and for his country. I applaud him for it, and offer him my sincere sympathy that his beloved grandmother did not live to see this day. Though our faith assures us she is at rest in the presence of her creator and so very proud of the good man she helped raise.

Senator Obama and I have had and argued our differences, and he has prevailed. No doubt many of those differences remain.

These are difficult times for our country. And I pledge to him tonight to do all in my power to help him lead us through the many challenges we face.

I urge all Americans … I urge all Americans who supported me to join me in not just congratulating him, but offering our next president our good will and earnest effort to find ways to come together to find the necessary compromises to bridge our differences and help restore our prosperity, defend our security in a dangerous world, and leave our children and grandchildren a stronger, better country than we inherited.

Whatever our differences, we are fellow Americans. And please believe me when I say no association has ever meant more to me than that.

It is natural. It’s natural, tonight, to feel some disappointment. But tomorrow, we must move beyond it and work together to get our country moving again.

We fought — we fought as hard as we could. And though we feel short, the failure is mine, not yours.

I hold in my heart nothing but love for this country and for all its citizens, whether they supported me or Senator Obama — whether they supported me or Senator Obama.

I wish Godspeed to the man who was my former opponent and will be my president. And I call on all Americans, as I have often in this campaign, to not despair of our present difficulties, but to believe, always, in the promise and greatness of America, because nothing is inevitable here.

Americans never quit. We never surrender.

We never hide from history. We make history.

Thank you, and God bless you, and God bless America. Thank you all very much.”

This concession speech should inspire the public figures across nations to conduct themselves in dignified manner after electoral defeat. American can be the leader of a decent political culture which equips every public figure to work for the common cause without vitiating the atmosphere and pushing the people towards frustration.

 

Innovative Marketing or Cheating?

Marketing requires all corner thinking. Consumer consequences are one of the vital thoughts each marketing executive should think before venturing into the field. Due to the undue target pressures, marketing personnel adopt hook or crook methods to achieve their sales. Despite consumer courts and non stop awareness creations by the government agencies and NGOs, duping of consumers continue unabated.

 

The cell phone companies are case in point. With the greed to capitalize the wide open Indian market, cell phone companies pumped in huge scale of money. Reliance was one of the first companies to enter the field. They gave life-long validity with handsets and talk time. Its popularity grew at an amazing pace. There was a tough competition for dealership. Virtually competition existed to Reliance monopoly in the late nineties. Then Bharati, Essar, Tatas and others came into the field. With the antagonistic communications minister Dayanidhi Maran at the helm of affairs, Reliance found the going tough since 2004.

 

Till 2004 Reliance used all official connections and strengthened its monopolistic practices. Government, agents and customers were cheated alike. Across the board cheating was common among those who connected with Reliance. For diverting ISD calls as local calls, Reliance created a loss of Rs.500 crores to the Government. Hand in glove with telecommunications authorities Reliance was carrying on with this malpractice for long time till it was exposed in 2005. After failing all compromise formulas and under hand negotiations, Reliance paid Rs.150 crores fine to the communications ministry.

 

 For instance if you dial a number then the call rating starts before the other end picks up the phone. Even if you speak for 59 seconds the phone will take you to 1 minute 1 second. There was no accountability in Reliance. Initially they said SMS is free and local call charges Rs.2 only. Now they are saying that SMS is one rupee and local call charge is fifty paisa. Why this bogus advertisement? Now most of the customers are used to SMSes. By advertising low call rates they can retain the existing customers or expand their customer base. In the final sum, the company is growing and customers are feeling the heat.

 

The sky high popularity of Reliance crashed down suddenly. Airtel topped the list with the quick and reasonable services.  Till it defeated Reliance monopoly, Airtel was sincere. Now they also started cheating their customers. Caller tunes, voice SMS, MMS, selling data bases of the customers and other methods are used to stay in business. Thankfully TRAI (Telecom Regulatory Authority of India) is up on heals to keep tab of these offenders. Without regulation tele customers will be pushed to the brink of financial collapse.

 

This is not the case alone with the telecom companies. Aviation sector, gas agencies, education, milk vendors, cable operators, any and every service provider adopts innovative cheating in the name of marketing. In all these methods the marketing executives and company heads forget one basic formula – cheating the customers will ruin the company in the long run. Already the consumer awareness and accumulated frustrations are strangulating companies. Before it gets too late they should get their act right. Tell the truth and convince the customer. They will be willing to support you rather than getting cheated. One customer said “Cheat me straight. Don’t waste your and my time by taking me for a long ride”. Such a frustration is bred among the consumers by marketing executives to make their living.